Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mother's Day: Gifts for the Reading Mom

My kids never ask me what sorts of present I'd like on special occasions. They know me well. Generally, I end up with a gift card for Barnes and Noble - which works equally well for books, ebooks, and cinnamon dolce lattes - my favorite treat. But occasionally they'll get me a specific book they know I've had my eye on. With that in mind, I thought I'd offer up some ideas that I think would make excellent gifts for Mother's Day or any other day.

For the Cooking Reading Mom

Are these not the cutest? Ok, to be honest I haven't actually made any of these, but I have huge aspirations to make them all. This would be an especially nice gift for a mom of smallish children. She will be the hit of the next school bake sale.

For the Sewing Reading Mom

I have actually made one of these. I'll admit that it wasn't as simple as sewing on a button, but for my first attempt, I think Monty turned out not bad if a tad wonky. He's a monster. He's supposed to be wonky. My Emma loves him, and really that's all that matters.

Anyway, back to the book. The instructions are clear, and the monsters are all equally adorable.

For the Traveling Reading Mom

Ordinarily I'd suggest one avoid giving a gift that mentions dying, but for this I think you could make an exception. On the other hand, if she's more into armchair travel....

You can't go wrong with Frances Mayes. Add the book to a basket filled with Italian themed goodies (specialty pastas, a bottle of nice Italian wine, an Andrea Bocelli cd...), and you'll have a wonderfully thoughtful gift that will please mom to no end.

For the Romantic Reading Mom

If romance is your mom's cup of tea, Nora Roberts' Bride Quartet is a lovely series. If I'm going to read a romance novel, I prefer it to be more about the story, where the romance is somewhat secondary to the plot. While Nora is always going to have a lot of lovey dovey, she is excellent at providing a well written plot in a beautifully descriptive way.

For the Animal Loving Reading Mom

This is a wonderful story of redemption. It's a must read for dog people. You also might consider making a contribution to the Humane Society in your mom's name.

For the Christian Reading Mom

The Yada Yada books are great fun. If she's already read those, try the House of Hope series - an offshoot of the prayer group. Add a bookmark with her favorite Bible verse printed on it (buy one or make your own) for a personal touch.

So there you have it. These are just a few of my personal favorites.

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review: Already Home by Susan Mallery

Publisher: Mira
368 pages
First Line: "What do you think?" Jenna Stevens asked, doing her best to sound confident.
One Word Review: Delightful

Publisher's Description:

After nearly a decade as a sous chef in a trendy eatery, Jenna is desperate for a change. She's supported her ex-husband's dreams for so long that she can't even remember her own. Until she sees a for-lease sign near her parents' home and envisions her very own cooking store.

Her crash course in business is aided by a streetwise store manager and Jenna's adoptive mother. But just as she's gaining a foothold in her new life, in walk her birth parents - aging hippies on a quest to reconnect with their firstborn.

Now, Jenna must figure out how to reconcile the free-spirited Serenity and Tom with her traditional parents, deal with her feelings for a new love interest and decide what to do about her ex's latest outrageous request. In the end, Jenna will find that there is no perfect family, only the people we love...

Having never read anything by Susan Mallery, I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this novel. I was initially intrigued by the cover. It's gorgeous. I tend to find myself choosing books based on the beautiful cover design, and often it's disappointing. Not so with Already Home. I loved just about everything about this novel, the engaging story, the well-written (and often flawed) characters, the little cook shop. Oh, how I wanted to pop into Grate Expectations and chat and cook with Jenna and Violet. While some of the plot points were a tad predictable, I found the book as a whole to be completely enjoyable and one I had a hard time putting down. And I can't wait to try some of the author's recipes, which you can find on her blog.

From just a quick glance at some of the other titles under Ms. Mallery's belt, it appears she's typically a romance novelist. Like I said, I've not read her other work, so I'm going strictly by titles and cover art, and I could be wrong. But in any case, it does appear she's branching out with Already Home. It's got romance, but I wouldn't call it a romance novel. There's too much substance to attach that narrow a label. If you enjoy really good women's fiction, this is definitely one to put on your to read list.

Book Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Buy this book on Amazon.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Review: The Goodbye Quilt by Susan Wiggs

Publisher: Mira
250 pages
One Word Review: Thoughtful

Publisher's Description:

Linda Davis's local fabric shop is a place where women gather to share their creations: quilts commemorating important events in their lives. Wedding quilts, baby quilts, memorial quilts—each is bound tight with dreams, hopes and yearnings.

Now, as her only child readies for college, Linda is torn between excitement for Molly and heartache for herself. Who will she be when she is no longer needed in her role as mom? What will become of her days? Of her marriage?

Mother and daughter decide to share one last adventure together—a cross-country road trip to move Molly into her dorm. As they wend their way through the heart of the country, Linda stitches together the scraps that make up Molly's young life. And in the quilting of each bit of fabric—the hem of a christening gown, a snippet from a Halloween costume—Linda discovers that the memories of a shared journey can come together in a way that will keep them both warm in the years to come….

I had mixed feelings about this book.

First, the not so good. Let me preface by saying that this is most likely particular to my situation. I am a quilter, and I have worked for a quilt shop, and as a professional quilter, for 13 years. Because of that, I think the quilting theme, while possibly quaint to other readers (and something I thought I would enjoy as well), was somewhat tedious to me. I imagine it's like someone who works in a book shop reading a novel set in a book shop. I adore books like that. For booksellers, perhaps it just reminds them of work. That was an issue, not the only issue, but still something that lessened my enjoyment. The other problem I had with the book was that it seemed slow at times. It was almost like reading what could have been a short story that dragged for a bit too long. It was very emotive and not much in the way of action,. Lots more going on in the main character's mind than actually moving the story along. This isn't so much a fault of the book, more just a style preference of my own. I personally prefer more plot and less introspection.

Now, the good. The book was beautifully written, and the style was lovely. At times, I admit I had to look up a word or two - Ms. Wiggs obviously has an excellent vocabulary - but it never felt pretentious, just smartly written. While I would have liked to see the relationship between the husband and wife fleshed out a bit more, I found the characters to be well-written and easily relatable. On the whole, it is a quick and enjoyable read, and I believe those who appreciate introspective, emotional fiction will really love this book.
Book Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Buy The Goodbye Quilt